Wildfire Smoke Moves East Into Utah Causing Poor Air Quality And Potential Health Effects

Aug 27, 2018

The above map is smoke map for the United States on August 25. Shifts in the wind patterns have brought more smoke from Western wildfires to Utah.
Credit NOAA

For many residents in northern Utah, our characteristic mountains are shroud in a hazy smoke. The cold front that entered on Monday brought with it northwesterly and westerly winds carrying smoke from the many fires in the western United States.

“The front switched the winds to the west and northwest which means it is coming from the direction of the wildfires over California, so when the front came through and changed those winds it brought with it a lot of the smoke," said Monica Traphagan, a meteorologist based in Salt Lake City with the National Weather Service.

Utahans can expect some relief later this week as the front shifts direction, but she says the smoke from dozens of fires burning in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon will remain.

“It may be a while before it totally clears up just because these wildfires are on-going and as they continue to burn we will still be affected," Traphagan said. "We should see some improvement as the week goes on because we are going to see the flow start to come from a more south or southwesterly direction as we approach the middle of the week and so I think there will be some improvement with regard to the air quality and the smoke.”

According to Donna Kemp Spangler with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the smoke and particulate matter in the air can have health impacts, especially for sensitive groups.

“What the yellow air quality means is the yellow means that it is unhealthy for sensitive people," she said. "If you’re someone who has asthma, if you have any type of respiratory conditions, you want to limit your outdoor activity. Children, because children breathe in a lot of air, are susceptible to it. Elderly people. Those are considered sensitive groups."

Utah air quality officials recommend reducing your trips in your car to minimize additional contaminants in the air from your tailpipe.